Accuracy in measurement of elevation gain in road cycling

Paolo Menaspà, Eric Haakonssen, Avish Sharma, Brad Clark


Purpose. Accurate measures of elevation gain are important for monitoring energy expenditure and physical load. The aim of this study was to determine the accuracy of barometric devices used for measuring elevation gain.

Methods. Observational validation study. Twenty-eight barometric altimeter devices (SRM and Garmin) were used to measure total elevation gain during cycling over three different climbs (length range: 3.2-18.4 km), giving a total of 216 climbs.  An online mapping tool ( was used to calculate the criterion measure of total elevation gain. Data were categorised into two weather conditions: dry and wet.

Results. The standard errors of the estimate for total elevation gain measured by SRM and Garmin devices were 1.5% and 1.9%, respectively. In dry conditions, SRM devices underestimated the total elevation gain by an on average by of ~5% while the Garmin devices underestimated it by ~2%. In wet weather conditions the bias worsened to -25%.

Conclusions. Measurements of total elevation gain recorded with devices of differed brands were similarly accurate in dry weather conditions. Wet weather conditions significantly decreased the accuracy of total elevation gain measurements.



Validity; Training Load; Altitude; Physical activity; Outdoor; Performance analysis.

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